John Ibbotson

Theatre in Education practitioner, John Ibbotson, attended a variety of courses at Bradford
Technical College, Bradford Art College and Bingley College in the 1960s and 1970s.

John as a Victorian schoolmaster in our preserved Victorian lecture theatre in the Old BuildingPictured here working with schoolchildren visiting our glorious original Victorian lecture room as part of our 175 Celebrations, John’s story encapsulates the need to keep on learning until you discover what you love to do.

“In 1962 I left Hutton Secondary Modern School early to work as an apprentice textile designer at Associated Weavers. I had to attend evening classes at Bradford Technical College to study Weaving Mathematics, which I hated. As a kid I had done drama at the Civic Playhouse but when I became eligible to move up to seniors at the Green Room it clashed with the dreaded Weaving Mathematics and I couldn’t go.

I eventually quit and came to Bradford Art College for the Art Foundation course and I also did O Level English at night in the Technical College. I met a girlfriend at College whose dad was a teacher. I followed his recommendation to get my O Levels and became a teacher, so by the time I had finished the art course I had already left the idea of art behind. I spent a year full time at the ‘Tech’ doing my other O levels, then obtained a student teaching job and came to night school to do my A Level in English Literature.

Then I went to Bingley College for my teacher training from 1967 to 1970. I had planned to do Art and Biology but I rediscovered my Drama roots on the course and ending up doing Art and Drama. I taught for a couple of years but I was frustrated as I realised I really wanted to get involved in Theatre in Education (TIE). I couldn’t find any openings locally so I dropped out and went to Oxford singing with a rock band called Ebo Job! We once did a show at Fountains Hall in Bradford on the same bill as Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band.

When that fizzled out I decided to pursue my interest in TIE. I ended up working at a puppet company in Eastbourne (the Equity minimum was £18 per week and the puppet job paid £25). We toured the country and I realised I could do a better job. So in 1973 I set up Plus Puppets and with another member of staff I went into schools doing educational shows. It was a passion and I absolutely loved it. It only came to an end about 3 years ago because I hated all the travelling.

I then started doing freelance work for Bradford Museums. I do Victorian classrooms; a Tudor play and also a ghost story at Bolling Hall and a Roman Centurion at the Manor House in Ilkley. It is a wonderful way to bring history to life for young people.

It is poetic irony that I should return to Bradford College to re-enact a Victorian classroom, using drama skills to do a job I love when it was coming to a College night school course for a job I despised that stopped me doing drama in the first place! But other College courses equipped me to enjoy a rewarding and enjoyable career.”

Photograph by Shelagh Ward